Older people in China remember the Great Famine of 1958-61, when 15 million to 45 million people died of hunger and related causes.
Today, nearly every street corner in Beijing and many other cities seems to boast a McDonald’s. There are KFC outlets in almost every Chinese city, 3,700 in all. Meanwhile, newly minted members of the Chinese middle class have rushed to buy cars, leaving bicycles that were once a major source of exercise rusting on the street. Pizza Hut is considered a fancy date-night restaurant, T.G.I. Friday’s has several branches in Beijing, and cans of Coca-Cola are sold at every corner stand.
With fast food and rising affluence, a country only a generation removed from hunger is getting fat. How fat? According to the World Health Organization, the percentage of adults who are overweight and obese rose from rose from 25 percent in 2002 to 38.5 percent in 2010 in a population of 1.37 billion. Urban dwellers account for much of this. WHO projects that 50 to 57 percent of the Chinese population will be too heavy by 2015. (By comparison, 69 percent of Americans age 20 and older are overweight or obese.)